Pedro shared about being an athlete in our last post in the Ask a… series. If you missed that article you can read it here. Joining us today is Rose who will be sharing a bit about Alpha course and her experience leading it.
So Rose, for those readers who have never heard of it, what is Alpha? And who is it for?
Alpha is a series of interactive sessions exploring the Christian faith. It is typically run over eleven weeks, including a weekend away. It is a course where anyone can explore life and the Christian faith in a friendly, open, and informal environment.
Alpha is for everyone, especially those wanting to investigate Christianity, new Christians, newcomers to the church, and those wanting to brush up on the basics of the faith. The Alpha Course spans denominations and presents the core truths of the Christian faith in a manner that every denomination can get behind.
It runs all around the world in churches, prisons, schools, universities, workplaces, hospitals, cafés, residential homes, rural areas, and inner cities.
I had no idea it ran in so many different types of places. How else is it different than a typical Small Group or Bible study?
Alpha is an easy-going “come and see” type of gathering. It lays down foundations that people can build the rest of their lives upon. It is the opportunity to share thoughts and ideas on the topics, and to build trust and friendship.
Can you share a bit about its history? Where and when did it start?
Alpha was started in 1977 by the Reverend Charles Marnham, a curate at Holy Trinity Brompton, a Church of England parish in London. It started as a course for church members regarding the basics of beliefs commonly held by many believers in Christ, but then began to be used as an introduction for those interested in the faith.
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9)
I often think of it as a course for new Christians or non-believers. What would someone who is already a Christian gain from attending Alpha?
Alpha is designed primarily for those with no experience of the Church, which is why it is kept simple. But anyone can benefit from Alpha, because no assumptions are made about a person’s level of knowledge, understanding, or engagement with Christianity. We share our stories and testimonies and we learn from each other. The method is simple yet very effective.
I like that! What does a typical meeting look like?
Every Alpha meeting has three key elements: a meal, a talk, and a discussion.
Offering a meal or snack is an essential part of Alpha because eating together is great for building community.
After the meal, a short talk is given either live or played as a video. The talks, which explore the big issues around faith, are designed to engage and inspire conversation.
The small groups provide the opportunity to share thoughts and ideas on the topic, and to build trust and friendship.
‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12)
I heard there is a variation of Alpha that is just for youth. Can you share about that?
Youth Alpha contains the same teaching material as the adult course, but it’s packaged in a way to appeal to young people aged 11 to 18. Unlike Alpha which sometimes uses a talk on DVD, Youth Alpha always has a live talk or presentation. The talks are great fun to give and are interactive using games and activities. The approach is perfect for teenagers because it encourages them to make the decision to follow Jesus.
Awesome! Let’s hear about what it is like leading the course. How long have you been leading Alpha?
I first attended as a guest two years ago and I enjoyed the hospitality, meal, and everything. It was amazing to watch the journey that some of the other guests went through. After having gone through Alpha as a guest, I felt comfortable enough to lead, so I lead the next session because that was my last year in Beijing.
What do you like about leading the course? And what are your biggest struggles with it?
I learnt a lot from leading. The Alpha leader is responsible for doing all the work behind the scenes for the course. Leading has taught me to be well-organized and friendly.
Leading is challenging though. The struggle for me was to maintain unity in diversity. We were people from different cultures and different beliefs so finding the right balance was challenging.
‘I am the way and the truth and the life’ (John 14:6)
I can imagine. What do people need to know about leading Alpha if they are considering serving this way?
The Alpha Course leader is someone who will take some pastoral responsibility for people in the course. They have a team helping that we call the Alpha small group host and helpers. It is not necessarily them hosting in their home and they do not have to know all the answers as we learn from each other. It is best if the leader is a good listener and friendly.
Leading an Alpha small group is often very different from other Christian groups that meet, and training is designed to give guidelines on how to lead. This has a significant impact not only in unifying the team, but in ensuring that the small groups, the pastoral care and the prayer ministry run smoothly. I encourage all those considering serving as an Alpha leader to attend these training sessions with their team members.
I love how we grow in our faith when we serve. How have you been strengthened as a leader and as a Christian because of serving this way?
Serving as a leader has given me the opportunity to grow, and to know my strengths and my weaknesses. Focusing on Jesus and how all his teaching was centered on Himself and His claims has strengthened my faith as a Christian.
Jesus said I am the bread of life’ (John 6:35)
Amen! Finally, what have been some rewarding moments for you while leading Alpha?
The most rewarding moments were freely sharing our beliefs and testimonies, asking questions with no judgement, and watching the journey some people went through. I would say that my heart for others has grown through this process.
Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing today Rose!
Did you know there are new Alpha courses starting here in Beijing next month? If you are interested in registering, click here.
If you would like more information about Alpha, go to https://alpha.org/